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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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September 2016
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Apple Attacks Kindle Publishing With iBooks Author, Drama Ensues

We are well aware now what the big Apple announcement for January was: their new iBooks Author program.  It is a program that allows for easy creation of books, most notably textbooks, for free.  iBooks might have failed to kill the Kindle platform, even given the whole Agency Model collusion with publishers (the legality of which we’ll have to wait and see about), but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to give up.  After some experimentation with the new program I find myself conflicted.  I wanted it to be mediocre, but it’s not.  And therein lies the problem.

You see, there is a bit of a problem with the program’s EULA.  It won’t be a deal breaker for just anybody, but there is definitely important information to be aware of.  By using the iBooks Author program, you are agreeing that not only will anything you sell be available in Apple’s eBook store but also will never never be sold for the Kindle, Nook, or any other non-Apple device.

Before going into the subtleties of the wording, and there are a few arguments with varying degrees of merit that have been made toward the harmlessness of this clause, consider that this can definitely be read as a response to the recent Amazon effort to gain author exclusivity.  The only difference is that Amazon brings in authors with a chance at more money while Apple just quietly restricts their distribution rights with a clause that users not only never explicitly accept, but don’t even see unless they go out of their way.

That said, there are a few situations where I think this will be an extremely valuable thing to have.  If you are planning to create and distribute your work permanently free of charge, I have yet to find a more intuitive, affordable tool for making textbooks or manuals.  If your book was always intended to be marketed primarily to users of the iBooks store, this probably won’t have much of an impact on you.

Now, let’s acknowledge some ambiguities in the wording and clarify some of the many common points of contention:

Restrictions Only Apply To iBook Format:  FALSE

The definition of “Work” used in the EULA clearly indicates that anything generated using the software counts.  It does not matter if you export to PDF, for example.

Apple Is Stealing Author Copyrights:  FALSE

Anything you create is yours from the moment you create it unless you explicitly hand over permission.  What Apple is doing is telling you where you can sell it.  Using iBooks Author allows them to restrict distribution of your work, but otherwise seems to offer them no rights to it.

All This Applies To Is The Formatted Product, Not The Content:  AMBIGUOUS

Leaving aside the textbook for a moment and assuming we are talking about a book that is completely text based.  If you want to release a Kindle version, it would seem possible to just copy the text and reformat.  The wording of the EULA describes “Work” recursively as “any book or other work you generate using this software”.  This can, and hopefully would be, read to mean that only the final, fully formatted output is affected, but the ambiguity is troubling.

It Is Free Software, They Have A Right To Expect A Return:  TRUE-ISH

Nobody is forcing you to use this program.  It is being provided free of charge by Apple and provides far greater functionality than any other free program out there for the same purposes.  Most such restrictions are aimed toward restriction the active use of the software rather than restricting how a creator can manage their own work, though.  Neither illegal nor unprecedented, but odd and somewhat troubling.

Not A Consumer Targeted Software Anyway:  FALSE

This one comes up a lot.  Despite the large number of advertisements being done involving the cooperation of such publishers as Pearson and McGraw Hill in the iBooks Textbook initiative, there has been no indication that they are contributing work under the same agreement.  This is free software pointed at teachers and authors in the advertising (particularly the promo video).  It has bundled templates to simplify the work, a simple drag and drop interface, and tons of automation.  There is depth for those who need it, but definitely not aimed solely at experienced professional textbook publishers.

Apple Can Prevent A Finished Book From Ever Being Sold:  TRUE

All that is required for a book to be covered by these restrictions is that it be a product of iBooks Author.  Publication is neither automated nor guaranteed, and just because Apple turns you down does not mean that you are free to market your work through another platform or sell through your own means.

Apple Offers Better/Worse Royalties Than The Competition Anyway:  FALSE

Apple is effectively offering the same cut of all sales to authors as the vast majority of authors receive when selling for the Kindle and nearly the same (within 5%) as that offered to Nook sellers.

Now, I’m not about to claim that this is the most horrible thing ever done to authors or even that it is deliberately malicious.  Some have claimed that just as this is a 1.0 software, so is the EULA in early versions too and ambiguity will inevitably be removed.  If so, and there was no intent to deceive or control, so be it.  It is already a complicated enough process to get anything out of your eBooks that authors should be aware of what they are getting into, though.  I, for one, wouldn’t want to be locked out of the Kindle platform by accident when that’s where all the readers are.

This is good software.  Possibly great software.  But the limitations aren’t the same as you get when publishing a Kindle Edition, where all you need to worry about is not selling things cheaper elsewhere.  Under the current wording it seems to literally stop you from reaching an audience.  That’s just unpleasant, and something that people need to be aware of when deciding whether or not iBooks Author is for them.

Class Action Lawsuit Seeks To Bring Value Back To Kindle eBooks

For those who have been paying attention, it doesn’t come as much of a shock to hear that people are unhappy about the rise in price of Kindle eBooks caused by the Agency Model pricing forced on Amazon by the largest publishing houses in the business.  Apple came out with iBooks as a means of adding value to the iPad’s initial launch, and in doing so arranged things to prevent Amazon from having an advantage.  They went to the publishers, worked out an industry-wide deal, and ended the era of the affordably priced eBook.  Now, finally, somebody is calling them on it.

The basis for the suit is a number of early indications that Apple knew ahead of time that all of the major publishers would be turning on Amazon at the same time.  A much publicized Wall Street Journal article from early 2010 had Steve Jobs clearly aware of the impending changes and certain not only of his company’s ability to price match but of the publishers’ willingness to boycott Amazon in order to change the state of the market.  While Amazon did make every attempt to keep the Kindle Store free of such manipulation and price hiking, in the end each publisher is the controller of its own works and they were forced to concede defeat in order to keep the content available to Kindle readers.

The suit charges Apple and the five largest publishing companies with antitrust violations, among other things, and would seek to represent anybody who has purchased an eBook since the prices jumped over 30% practically overnight last year.  If successful, the Agency Model would be completely overturned, as would the arrangements currently in place preventing price discrepancies between retailers.

There is every reason to believe that this has at least a chance of success.  It is not even the first legal obstacle that publishers have faced since they turned on the Kindle.  In 2010 both Amazon and Apple were brought to talks with the Attorney General of Connecticut, who had concerns that the abrupt change would lead to a situation where competition between companies would be impossible.  Such anti-competitive behavior would of course be a dangerous thing to be involved in, but the companies being looked at at the time were clearly not colluding.  This time, looking at Apple and the publishers, it might not pass quite so easily.

Though it will be months, at best, before there is even an indication of which way this is likely to turn out, it is possible that there will be some change in the meantime.  eBooks are the only area where the publishing industry seems to be growing lately, and the Kindle platform is the driving force behind eBook sales in the US.  Anything that publishers can do to improve sales will be to their advantage, and they have shown at least some small interest in the potential from reduced pricing.  Will it be enough to change the face of eBook publishing without legal intervention?  Time will tell.  It seems inevitable that publishers will come to their senses eventually and drive their numbers up any way that works, though, and the success of the lawsuit is still just speculation.

Apple Changes App Rules To Avoid Losing Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and More

The status of the iOS Kindle App has been in question for a while now, after Apple’s announcement that they were going to begin enforcing some highly restrictive app store regulations.  eBook retailers would have been forced to offer all products that could be accessed through their app as a purchase through the same app and at the same price that these eBooks were sold elsewhere.  Bad news for companies like Amazon that often only make 30% on a given eBook sale, since Apple gets 30% of everything sold through their app store.  It was beginning to look like it would not be worth their time to continue maintaining an iOS presence.  Fortunately for lovers of the Kindle for iOS, Apple had an incredibly small and clearly grudging change of heart.

It is all in the phrasing of the rules.  The original cause for concern:

11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP [in-app purchase] at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.

The slightly revised rules:
11.13 Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected.

11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app.

Essentially, Amazon and the rest of the eReading crowd can continue to let users read their books and shop through the website so long as they don’t have a direct link away from the app to make sales.  Sadly, this comes too late and does far too little for some app providers.  A number of apps, including the popular iFlow eReader, felt compelled to shut down after Apple essentially destroyed the viability of their business.  This was clearly supposed to be a way for Apple to take all of the customers who came to their devices at least in part for their eReader usability and cut them off from their providers of choice, thereby increasing the user base of the less than successful iBooks store.

If it had come a year ago, I think it might even have managed to go through.  Right now, though, we have Kindles and Nooks that are affordable enough to supplement an iPhone or iPad.  Google’s Android is taking off and tablet choices are increasingly plentiful.  Most importantly, people are becoming more aware of the restrictive nature of Apple’s business practices.  They would have lost customers over the move.  It isn’t a big change in the rules, and it still gets in the way, but at least it shows that Apple can’t completely disregard the opinions and demands of their customers and developers without backlash.

Kindle app for iPad goes live

Though Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad are touted to be arch rivals in the e-Reader segment, it hasn’t stopped Amazon from building a Kindle app for iPad. Amazon previewed the Kindle iPad app a couple of weeks ago and yesterday, the app made its way to the Apple iTunes Store. The Kindle app for iPhone has been around for a while now and is very popular amongst iPhone users. The iPad Kindle app is a logical extension of the iPhone Kindle app and its release was on the cards after Apple announced the launch of iPad on April 3. However, there’s one major limitation of using Kindle on iPad – Books bought through Kindle app must be read within the app itself. These books will not be viewable in Apple’s iBooks app.

The Kindle app for iPad lets people enjoy the best of both worlds – easy to use Kindle app interface and supreme performance of the iPad. Further, it gives the users a choice to read books from either Amazon or Apple. Customers always want more choices and e-Readers are no exception to this rule. I’ve come across many voracious readers who are addicted to kindle interface and therefore, they are reluctant to try out the iPad. The Kindle app for iPad is welcome news for all such readers.

While a lot of people have been debating the fortune of Amazon Kindle after the launch of Apple iPad, I believe that Amazon will emerge as the major e-Book provider for iPad. Since iBooks is not pre-installed on Apple iPad, many users might prefer to install Kindle app for iPad as compared to iBooks.

I’ll publish a review as soon as 3G-capable version of iPad hits the stores that I intend to get for myself.

Kindle App. vs. Apple iBook App.

PC World has a good article that compares the Kindle application and the Apple iBook application.  The Kindle is not a device, but a platform, that runs on multiple devices such as the Blackberry, iPhone, PC and Mac.  That is one advantage that Amazon has over Apple because currently,

Kindle for iPad

Kindle for iPad

Apple’s new iBook application is only limited to the iPad.  Amazon recently unveiled plans to provide an application for the Apple iPad, which demonstrates that Amazon’s strives to reach out to the widest audience possible.

Considering that the iPad is a newly launched device, and that the price tag is pretty hefty at $499, Apple’s choice to keep the iBook application exclusive does not appear to be a very smart one.  However, eventually, there will most likely be an iBook application available for the iPhone and iPod touch.  It will be interesting to see if Apple branches out to allow an iBook application on Blackberry and Android.

Another marketing strategy that Amazon has going for it in terms of the Kindle platform is the amount of e-books available to download.  The iBook application only has 60,000 titles currently available.  This number will surely increase over time, but Amazon is ahead of the game at the moment with its much larger selection  of 450,000 titles available for readers.

According  to ReadWriteWeb’s article on comparing the two applications, the Kindle application is simple to use and doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles that the iBook application uses.  For example, the user sees one page at a time on the Kindle application, whereas with the iBook application, the user can see two pages at a time and the pages turn in a more “engaging” format.  From a user’s standpoint, simplicity is key to create an easy, pleasurable reading experience.